Tag - mental health

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The Winter Blues
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What Is Your New Years Resolution?
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Support for Survivors of Suicide Loss
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Tips for a Less Stressful Holiday
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Helping People Navigate the Health Care System
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2018 Community Health Needs Assessment Posted
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The Scarlet Letter of Addiction
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Can We Do More For Our Neighbors?
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Lamoille County Mental Health: 50 Years in the Making
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The Developing Brain

The Winter Blues

By: Caleb Magoon

Seasonal Affective Disorder

In my blog posts, I normally talk about staying active, fit and healthy. Of course, this is my wheelhouse. But this month I’m tackling a different subject: the all-too-familiar winter blues.

I’m generally a positive and upbeat person. I also love winter. I like to play in the snow and make the most of it, no matter the condition. But just a couple weeks ago something happened- I was in a bad car accident that has left me injured. Though my injury isn’t severe, it has left me unable to participate in many of the winter activities that bring me joy during these challenging months.

This has been a profound awakening for me. While I undergo rehab to get back to form, I now have a much greater understanding of and respect for those who are not able-bodied. The challenges of staying upbeat in our long winter become even harder with even modest limitations. So do mundane tasks like shoveling snow and walking down the road when your body can’t keep up.

What can we do but adapt? This can be very hard for someone like myself with set ways and ideas of how my winter should be. But adapting and making adjustments is the only way to stay positive. Here are some thoughts I have about the process:

  • Do what you can! Walking is widely recognized as an excellent exercise. It’s considerably lower speed than I am used to but necessary. It’s forced me to slow things down and take stock. This is good for both physical and mental recovery. Don’t discount the importance of some quiet time to think.
  • Stretch – Anyone can do it. A little physical therapy and stretching can do everyone good. It’s also the gateway to more robust activity. There are so many resources online that it’s easy to get started.
  • Exercise is mental – Every time I ski or bike I am helping my body and my mind. While my body must take it easy for the immediate future, I need to focus on sharpening my mind. I am reading the paper a bit more, writing in a journal about things going on in my life and working to reflect on the good things in life. Stay positive.
  • Set some goals – We all want to get back out. Setting modest goals will help the downtime fly by and keep you focused on recovery. We all want to be ready to enjoy that first sunny, 50-degree day in March. Be ready for it!
  • Don’t forget to socialize – Mental health is greatly improved when we engage with other people. Taking myself out of my routine pulls me away from the people I normally interact with. I tend to pull back from people and isolate a bit. This isn’t healthy. In situations like this, we all need to go out of our way to stay engaged with others.

I now recognize the challenges of those who are less able-bodied to get through our long winters. You can make it through by staying positive and focusing on doing the things we are able to do.


Caleb Magoon is a Hyde Park native who grew up hiking, hunting, biking and exploring Vermont’s Green Mountains. His passions for sports and recreation have fueled his career as the owner of Power Play Sports and Waterbury Sports. Caleb encourages outdoor activity and believes it is an essential element to a healthy lifestyle and the Vermont way of life. Caleb serves the Lamoille Valley by volunteering on numerous community boards such as the Lamoille County Planning Commission, The Morrisville Alliance for Commerce and Culture, Mellow Velo, and the state chapter of The Main Street Alliance. He lives, plays and works in Hyde Park with his wife Kerrie.

What Is Your New Years Resolution?

A new year has arrived, presenting the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past and reset. Even if you’re not in need of a completely fresh start, everyone can benefit from embracing a more positive frame of mind and a few new wellness goals.

We asked Live Well Lamoille bloggers to share the healthy habits they hope to embrace this year. Here is what they said:

Valerie Valcour, Vermont Department of Health: A renewed focus for me in 2019 is work-life balance. The first step will be to incorporate 10 minutes of meditation into each day. The best time will be the transition between work and home each afternoon and mornings on the weekend. A book with 52 meditative focus areas will be my weekly topic guide. I wish you all the best in accomplishing your goals for 2019.

Caleb Magoon, Power Play Sports: A couple of years ago, I was a bit down in the dumps following a very tough year. In an effort to focus on all the positive things I had going in life, I resolved at the New Year to write a bit about those positive aspects of my life. Rather than a traditional journal chronicling all life events, I decided instead to simply write about positive events, moments of beauty I saw daily, or uplifting interactions with people around me. My goal was to write nearly every day, which I did, albeit not for the whole year.

Though my effort was short-lived, it was not without a positive effect. I found that by focusing on the positive rather than complaining about the many negative things (because that is just too easy), had a profound effect on my outlook.

This year, I plan to do something similar. I have some new and slightly more realistic expectations. I’m quite certain that by taking just a few minutes each week to celebrate the positive things in my life, I will see an improved outlook. Deep in the Vermont winter, many of us struggle to keep a positive attitude. Small exercises like this that take little time can do big things for your mental health.

Dan Regan, Northern Vermont University-Johnson: In 2019 I resolve to continue two strategies, which I’ve begun. The first is: Allot extra time for all tasks and commitments. My mom gave me this advice, and she lived past 95. It means leaving early to pick someone up, arriving beforehand for an appointment or meeting, planning on extra time to cook dinner, complete a report, etc. I’m someone who acutely feels the pressure of an upcoming commitment. For me, and maybe others among you, a more unhurried approach reduces stress, helps control blood pressure and contributes to overall health.

In my seventies, time is obviously precious; but I can’t honestly claim that each second is equally indispensable. So I don’t begrudge waiting and “wasting” some of those seconds. Paradoxically, the willingness to waste some time unapologetically has made my “productive” moments feel—well—more productive and meaningful.

The second resolution is: Minimize multitasking. That means, for starters, no peering at screens while I’m exercising or checking phones when I’m actually watching something. I find the more I commit to uni-tasking, the more I get done. I’m better able to focus on the task at hand. And an unforeseen benefit is that, without distraction, my mind is free to move in unexpected and sometimes productive directions. For instance, I “wrote” this short piece in my head while running in a pool.

I hope I can make good on these two, simple commitments and I wish everyone a good (better) and healthy 2019!

What are your health and wellness resolutions? Maybe you’d like to start meal planning, start walking for 20 minutes per day, or just want to stop overscheduling your calendar to cut down on stress. How do you plan to stick to them? Let us know in the comments section below.

Support for Survivors of Suicide Loss

Death by suicide is complicated as is the survivor grief that follows. Did you know:

  • Grief is unpredictable.
  • Grief is complicated.
  • Grief is not one emotion, but many.
  • Grief is exhausting.
  • Grief ambushes you.
  • Grief never really goes away.
  • Grief permeates all aspects of life.
  • Grief is a process, not an event.
  • Only you know how much time you need to grieve.

Monique Reil of Lamoille County Mental Health Services and Jane Paine with Lamoille Home Health & Hospice are coordinating a support group for survivors of suicide loss. Please join us in this safe, confidential space to share your story or just to be surrounded by those who understand and care.

The Survivors of Suicide Loss (SOSL) support group meets the last Wednesday of each month from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. For location details, call Jane Paine at 888-4651 or Monique Reil at 888-5026.

Tips for a Less Stressful Holiday

By: Leah Hollenberger

Tips to reduce holiday stress

The holidays can be one of the most stressful and emotional times of the year.  The loss of loved ones is felt deeply, financial worries, and stress over trying to fit in holiday activities along with daily life all contribute. There are two steps to helping make the holidays easier and more enjoyable. The first step is being honest with how much you can afford to spend for the holiday and sticking to your budget. The second step is focusing on what is most meaningful to you and your family and letting go of all the other activities and events that we tell ourselves must be a part of the holidays. This can be hard given all of the commercials, movies, and others’ traditions and expectations that are shared this time of the year.  Here are some tips that may help:

Speak with your extended family or friends in advance and mutually agree to provide gifts only for anyone under the age of 18.

For the adults, hold a Yankee Swap. Set a reasonable price limit, which is fair to everyone. You’ll find people will get creative. It is fun watching everyone open the presents and you’ll have a lot of laughs with the trading and swapping that ensues!

If you enjoy making gifts, try making one gift your signature gift for the holiday season. Make multiples of the item and give it to every adult on your list. Think homemade cocoa mix, granola, canned or preserved items like jam or pickles, candles, and the like.

Realize that once you give a gift, you are not invested as to if the recipient likes the gift. Of course, you hope they love it, but if they don’t, it is not a reflection on you. Let it go. It is fine if they want to re-gift or donate the item so someone else can enjoy it.

Give experiences as gifts; tickets to a play, a museum pass, a restaurant gift card – something that encourages the recipient to spend time with someone they love.

Give your time: a coupon to babysit; a calendar with an offer to get together monthly for a “walk and talk;” a bag of your homemade cocoa mix with a note to get together to watch a favorite tv show; an offer to drive them to the library, grocery store or laundromat, etc.  You could even suggest volunteering at the food share, nursing home, or with a local non-profit together.

Have your children shop with you for each other, within the budget you set. Siblings typically do a great job picking out a gift for each other – and it means more knowing their brother or sister picked it out especially for them.

The 4-gift rule is popular: one gift is something they want, one gift is something they need, one gift is something they wear, and one gift is something they read. I’m not sure where this rule originated, but it works for everyone and helps you stay on budget.

Figure out the two or three things that you love the most about the holiday and focus on them. If you love the lights on the Christmas tree but dislike decorating it, why not go with just lights on the tree? Make just one or two kinds of Christmas cookies instead of four or five. Better yet, participate in a cookie-walk if you want a variety of cookies. Area churches often hold them and promote them via Front Porch Forum.

Instead of going out to dinner, or fixing a fancy meal, suggest a potluck instead or serve a simple meal with a fancy dessert. Meet after dinner and take a drive around town to see the Christmas lights. Or play a board game with Christmas music playing in the background.

Simplify the expectations you have for yourself and others and you’ll find your holiday is less stressful and filled with what truly matters: spending meaningful time with family and friends.

What tips do you have for making the holidays less stressful?


Leah Hollenberger is the Vice President of Marketing, Development, and Community Relations for Copley Hospital. A former award-winning TV and Radio producer, she is the mother of two and lives in Morrisville. Her free time is spent volunteering, cooking, playing outdoors, and producing textile arts. Leah writes about community events, preventive care, and assorted ideas to help one make healthy choices.

Helping People Navigate the Health Care System

By: Rebecca Copans

Anyone who has accompanied a loved one to an emergency room knows how challenging it can be to navigate the medical system. Its complex language, daunting costs, and frenetic pace make it difficult for the average person to take in. If the patient has no one by their side and if they are dealing with two or more chronic conditions — plus poverty, food insecurity, and unstable housing — they face even greater challenges in navigating the healthcare system.

Sarah Williams, Lamoille County Mental Health Services (LCMHS) Medical Care Coordinator, has seen first-hand the results of that confusion and it has become her mission to directly challenge that problem. In her role, Williams has created collaborative relationships among providers at LCMHS and community partners, including primary care physicians, endocrinologists, neurologists, pharmacists, and hospital emergency room staff. Her role brings together providers and information systems to coordinate health services with patient needs to better achieve the goals of treatment. “When I look into a person’s eyes, I can see the difference that help has made. They are less stressed and can focus on getting well.”

Having someone to help patients navigate a complex system improves the quality of the care they receive. Outcomes improve as well, as the person receives the kind of medical follow-up that is required to treat their needs. Research across disciplines have shown that care coordination increases efficiency and improves clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction with care. “Greater coordination of care—across providers and across settings—will improve quality care, improve outcomes, and reduce spending, especially attributed to unnecessary hospitalization, unnecessary emergency department utilization, repeated diagnostic testing, repeated medical histories, multiple prescriptions, and adverse drug interactions” writes Susan Salmond and Mercedes Echevarria of Rutgers University School of Nursing.

Through these coordinated partnerships, LCMHS is enhancing the quality of care for the individuals they serve. This gives the individual an advocate, as well as someone to translate the often murky landscape of multiple disciplines of medicine. This has a striking benefit to patients’ mental health, quality of life, and their own sense of optimism as they have one distinct person that can be contacted to help clarify information, track multiple appointments, and identify specialists.

As primary and behavioral health care providers strive to integrate services, care coordination will support system-wide efforts to reduce emergency room visits and hospital stays, which is one of the greatest cost-drivers for the health care system. Based on the foundation of care coordination, primary and behavioral health care integration will make huge inroads in achieving the triple bottom line of health care: to improve the health of the population, to improve the patient experience of care (including quality, access, and reliability), and to control or reduce costs.


Rebecca Copans has worked extensively in government affairs, public relations and communications. As a society, our greatest potential lies with our children. With this basic tenant firmly in mind, Rebecca worked most recently with the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children and now with Lamoille County Mental Health to secure a stronger foundation for all Vermont families. 

A graduate of the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College, Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in globalization. Her thesis concentration was the history and societal use of language and its effect on early cognitive development. She lives in Montpelier with her husband and three children.

2018 Community Health Needs Assessment Posted

Results and Implementation Plan are Now Available for Community Review

 

Copley Hospital has completed its 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and posted the results and implementation plan on its website, copleyvt.org. Through the CHNA process, Copley has determined the top health needs of the community are: Preventative Care, Mental Health, Chronic Health Conditions, and Substance Use/Abuse. The Hospital has developed, in conjunction with recommendations from local health care and social service organizations, an implementation plan. This plan will help address these needs and includes services/programs the hospital already offers, new services/programs the hospital may add, other organizations the hospital may partner with and metrics the hospital will use to track progress.

“We had a tremendous response to our survey and are grateful to the staff of area social service organizations and agencies and community leaders that helped with the assessment and shaping our Implementation Plan,” said Art Mathisen, Copley Hospital CEO.  “We view this as a plan for how we, along with other area organizations and agencies, can collaborate to bring the best each has to offer to support change and to address the most pressing identified needs.”

A CHNA is a federal requirement of all non-profit hospitals to prove the hospital is providing community benefit and meeting the needs of local residents. The CHNA process follows federal guidelines including gathering statistical data from reputable sources, surveying “Local Experts” who meet specific criteria and developing an implementation plan for addressing the Significant Health Needs in the area.

The complete report can be found here: https://www.copleyvt.org/about-us/community-health-needs-assessment/. Community members can also go to Copley’s Community Relations office and request a paper copy to review.

The Scarlet Letter of Addiction

By: Megan Dorsey, Pathway Guide, North Central Vermont Recovery Center

People in recovery from substance use face many challenges and have to make many changes in their lives to have success in recovery. For starters: Everything.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand (or more) times: “No one chooses a life of addiction.” Some are born into it through a gene pool, not of their choosing. Some have been prescribed medication to take away pain after a serious injury. Some simply had a bad day and took something or had a drink to ease the pain, and their introduction to addiction spiraled out of control from that point.

Unfortunately, this group of people is still looked down upon by many. They are called a burden on society, a menace, thieves, and worthless. Though their behavior while under the influence of a particular mind-altering substance may have been less than savory, that was the disease within the human working, not the human themselves.

Working in the world of recovery, I get to see the human instead of the disease. The people I work with are strong, determined, honest, and compassionate towards others. They have had to uproot themselves from everything, everyone, and every place they knew as home, and start over completely.  That takes serious grit. While sometimes they struggle, and sometimes they briefly slip back into old ways, they keep trying. And all along the way, while picking themselves back up, they are lifting others. They are the ones helping, volunteering, holding doors, mentoring, and supporting others who are new to the journey they’ve walked with courage and pride.

I have heard many people in long-term recovery say they are now grateful for the disease of addiction they have within them. Without it, they wouldn’t have become the amazing people they are today and wouldn’t be working diligently every day to maintain a new way of life they can be proud of.

So, the next time you see someone struggling in the throes of their addiction and behaving poorly due to their angst and constant struggle, I encourage you to be compassionate. Remember the person they are about to become with the right help and support.

They are about to become someone who helps so many others find their way.

Can We Do More For Our Neighbors?

By: Sarah Williams

I was moved to speak at our Town Meeting in Stowe when our neighbors were debating the comparatively large recreation budget versus the nearly nonexistent social services budget. I made the life choice to pursue a career in supporting our most vulnerable neighbors. I do it because if we don’t care for those who are struggling, for those who are in crisis, for those who need a pathway up and out of their trouble, I feel that we all—as a community and as a society—are only as strong as our lowest common denominator. When kids don’t have what they need to be successful in their early years, their chance of success as adults, community members and employees is greatly challenged. The success of our community is what we make of it. Recreational paths are nice, sure, but what makes a strong economy are the people who participate in it. The strength of the people in Stowe is what will make our community rise.

The strength of the people in Stowe is what will make our community rise.

When the public thinks about mental health, often their mind goes straight to emergency rooms and the state hospital—a vision of a person being locked away under a guard of nurses. In reality, the mental health system is infinitely more nuanced. 90% of mental health is supporting people to live healthy, productive and self-directed lives. We do this a number of ways:

  • After a tragedy in schools or at fire stations through grief support
  • creating support systems with foster and adoptive families to ensure permanence for children
  • helping people with developmental disabilities to build relationships and hold meaningful work
  • providing support for someone to return to work after a decade of doubting that they are able to get and hold a job
  • helping someone who is struggling with an issue with a family member or friend, who doesn’t know what steps to take to next; we have a system in place that helps people figure out the steps to ease their troubles and to know that they aren’t alone in figuring out a solution.

The emergency response budget that we passed in Stowe on Town Meeting Day is going to continue to rise unless we start doing things differently. Reactionary response is both expensive and debilitating to the population who are struggling day to day. Consider the economic impact of each of these individual lives:

  • This winter, St. John’s in the Mountains Episcopal Church in Stowe erected an emergency homeless shelter that welcomed over 100 people—many of them children from Stowe. How does the lack of stable housing affect the ability of the parents of these children to hold a job, and for their kids to excel in school?
  • Consider the long-term, compounded costs of children going hungry over the summer due to lack of access to the free lunch program. How does this affect their long-term physical and mental health?
  • When the police are responding to mental health calls instead of being available emergencies, how does this affect both the safety of those calling the police, as well as the cost of the police budget? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on social services that get at the root of the problem rather than on emergency services?
  • Our elderly struggling to maintain their independence at home, while battling isolation, physical and mental health challenges. Don’t we owe it to our community elders to support the home share program?

The Stowe social services budget is 0.4 % of the town budget this year, while Morrisville contributes 1.3%–$82,469 to the community partners who help our neighbors, including CapStone, Lamoille County Mental Health Service, Home Share, the food shelf and Meals on Wheels. That is almost two times the amount we contribute to these programs that support our town.

So when I ask the question “Can we give more to our town social services budget?” I am asking you to not only think of Stowe as a great place to vacation and to have fun, but as a great place to live, work and raise a family.  To do this, we need to support the people who live in here who are struggling silently. If you need to hear it will save us money, it will. If you need to hear that giving back is showing your gratitude that you are one of the lucky ones, it is.  Our select board wants to hear that our town cares what happens to those who cannot speak for themselves.  Please contact your select board today and tell them that you support an increase in the social services budget in your town.


Sarah, an LNA who works as a Medication Coordinator for Lamoille County Mental Health Services, lives in Stowe with her two teenage sons.  She is a runner and garden enthusiast.

Lamoille County Mental Health: 50 Years in the Making

By: Savi Van Sluytman, CEO, Lamoille County Mental Health Services

A half-century ago, Lamoille County Mental Health opened its doors to serve the community.  Like you, we know that our neighbors have good days and bad days, ups and downs. It is our commitment that when our neighbors need help, we will be there to reach out a hand.

In the 50 years that we have been serving the Lamoille Valley, the way we respond to the needs of our neighbors has drastically changed. Much of our work happens right in the communities where our consumers live—in their homes, in their schools, in their child care programs, in their jobs.  We know that the best path to health and wellness is the one that ensures a full, meaningful life. A steady job, success in school, strong relationships and good friends, good nutrition and healthy exercise, feeling the sun on our faces and clean, fresh air in our lungs.

Every day at Lamoille County Mental Health, we are taking steps to ensure that no one in our community falls through the cracks. We provide the safety net that so many Vermonters need at some point in their lives. Many of us live here because, yes, it’s a place of rare and often breathtaking beauty, but also because we hold common values: that when a neighbor slides off the road on a snowy afternoon, we stop to help. When someone is struggling with an internal battle, we reach out a hand. Every Vermonter should be able to live healthy, productive lives.

We provide the safety net that so many Vermonters need at some point in their lives. In a state such as this, no one should go hungry, which is why we have a food shelf that on any given week is stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and non-perishable items.

If someone is struggling with the confidence they need to get back to work, we bridge that gap, empowering them to find and keep a job. We help them with every step where they need a guiding hand, and when they are ready to take the next step alone, we step back—but not away.

When someone is struggling with homelessness, we fight fiercely to find housing for them.  When transportation is a barrier to work, our supported employment dispatch team ensures that they can get there. We combat isolation by bringing people together for music and yoga classes, lunch, Special Olympics teams and support groups. After a few athletes in our community expressed interest in creating a Special Olympics swim team this fall, we found a head coach and we are scouring the community for assistant coaches and swim partners to accompany athletes in the pool, as well as a sponsor to cover the cost of using the pool at Johnson State College—please reach out if you are interested!

As we look to 2018 and our 51st year, we are thrilled to bridge community partnerships as we work to implement a capital campaign to support community needs. Our 2018 capital campaign goals are to:

  • Build an Imagination Center to benefit children with autism, behavioral and learning disabilities, as well as for elders with dementia;
  • Fund the Tiny House Project. Build four independent living “tiny houses” for people with developmental disabilities on the Oasis House property;
  • Provide matching funds to support the creation of affordable housing for people at risk of homelessness in community centers where it does not currently exist.

With these efforts, we seek to better serve the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.  To learn more, visit www.lamoille.org.

 

The Developing Brain

By: Rebecca Copans

Lucy, 3 years old, heading to her first day of preschool.

As a parent, you want nothing more than for your child to be happy and healthy, to make friends, and to be accepted and integrated with their peers. When one of those pieces doesn’t fall into place as you would hope, you start asking questions.  You talk to your friends and neighbors, you ask for help from your primary care provider, and you call Lamoille County Mental Health Services.

From when she was a toddler, my daughter Lucy struggled with communicating her needs in a socially acceptable way.  As an infant, we taught her baby sign language and she was incredibly proficient in verbal language at an early age. Also from a young age, however, she was paralyzed by social pressures and extreme shyness. When she was three and entered preschool, it didn’t go well. A brand new teacher fresh out of college combined with some energetic kids is a recipe for chaos. Sprinkle in social, emotional and behavioral challenges, and it can be a recipe for disaster.

It all came to a head when we were invited to a birthday party in March, seven months into the program and I saw firsthand what she had been trying to tell me week after week. She would come home and say, “No one played with me today.” Or, “I don’t have any friends at school.”  Impossible, I thought. This is preschool, where they learn to be friends and care about each other equally—right? Wrong. It was like watching a car wreck. I was rooted to the spot, transfixed as parents chatted around me, oblivious to the scene that our children were playing out with each other. There were leaders and followers, cliques and bullying, and passive-aggressive exclusion that was closer to how seventh-grade girls infamously treat each other. This was a 4-year old’s birthday party. I was shocked. I have never felt so acutely that I failed as a parent. I didn’t listen to this tiny little person tell me over and over that she needed help figuring out how to navigate an incredibly stressful situation. It was like a language that everyone else could speak but her.

We asked for advice, I cried a whole lot, and ultimately we changed schools. Within three weeks of being enrolled in her new school, her teachers surged to action. We created a plan and began pulling in an incredible array of wrap-around services.They suggested screenings and behavioral interventions and within months and with some incredible people in her corner, things began slowly to improve, tiny step by tiny step.

From under a porch chair “fort”, 5 year old Lucy weaves a story for her brother Hazen.

Lucy, who suffers from a heady mix of debilitating shyness, ADHD and learning disabilities, was taught to scaffold mental prompts that allow most children seemingly automatically to wait for a turn at the paper towel dispenser (rather than pushing past to avoid having to think of something to say—and then say it—to the child blocking her way), to wait quietly in line to go outside for recess, to ask a teacher for help navigating a problem, or, the Everest: to ask “can I play?” Working with the behavioral interventionist, we created a playbook so that her family and her teachers were all working from the same place and using the same language.

Those early interventions helped to rewire her brain. She was given the tools to ask with her words rather than by hurling her body through space, and was able to integrate gracefully into playing with her peers by having a coach whispering prompts in her ear. As those prompts become ingrained, and with her incredible early educators mimicking the behavior interventionist’s language, the social fabric of her life became more normalized. By the time she entered Kindergarten, that coach standing by her shoulder was no longer needed, and in fact, her problem-solving skills became tools that her Kindergarten peers learned from Lucy.

When Lucy was a toddler, we thought that her actions were simply normal—we had nothing to compare it to. We thought parenting was simply the hardest job on the planet and didn’t realize how much help was available in the community. I didn’t know that our designated mental health agency or our local parent-child center offered resources for someone with Lucy’s developmental challenges, and for us, as parents raising her. I had the misconception that those agencies were reserved only for low-income Vermonters. We had no idea where to turn and grew increasingly panicked.

Studies from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University have shown that in the first years of life, a developing brain forms one million connections every second. By the age of by the age of five, 90% of the brain is developed. If we had waited until Lucy reached Kindergarten before putting behavior interventions in place, the work in bending her trajectory would have become much more difficult.

Lucy is far from alone on her path. A 2015 VT Digger story noted,

“Vermont has the highest rate of identifying students with emotional disturbance in the country. As a percentage of all students who received special education services in the 2012-13 school year in Vermont, about 16 percent were identified with an emotional disturbance, according to federal data. That is more than twice the national average of 6.3 percent.”

Some experts have argued that Vermont is simply doing a better job than other states at early identification and intervention.

During the 2016-2017 School Year, the School-Based Clinician Program at Lamoille County Mental Health supported over 120 children like Lucy from preschool-age to high school seniors. These dedicated individuals provided individual, group, and team support for students in their learning environments. School-Based Clinicians teach and practice mindfulness techniques with children, organize running and fitness groups, support skill development in the areas of self-advocacy, self-regulation, identifying and verbalizing emotional states, peer conflict resolution, verbal and non-verbal communication, and development of reciprocal play skills. They also facilitate training sessions for an increase in trauma-informed approaches in schools. These services are now available in 12 schools with a potential to serve over 200 children in the Lamoille Valley.

The Redwood Program at LCMHS contracts with school districts to offer wrap-around, full-year behavioral interventions for children. The children engaged in the program during the school year then attend a six-week summer camp that has precipitously lowered the crisis rate for kids returning to school in the fall. The Redwood Summer Camp is free for students enrolled in the Redwood Program and prevents a lot of kids from needing more expensive therapies. It maintains structure for the children during the summer and builds and strengthens the relationships between the kids and the incredible cohort of behavioral interventionists.

At 7 years old, Lucy is thriving with school-based supports.

The Access Program at LCMHS offers Community Skills Work (CSW), allowing children to connect with this service when in crisis. At its peak this year, the CSW Program served approximately 60 children at one time. In addition to weekly visits with children, the program also supports activities such as Wellness Camp, Children’s Emotional Wellness Day and the Resource Parent Curriculum Plus (RPC+) Children’s Group—an incredible program that supports placement stability for children in foster care. The CSW Program is connected with several local organizations, offering access to activities such as swimming, ice skating, gyms, game rooms, and State Parks.

During that first year of preschool, I was sure that Lucy would never be able to succeed socially in school.  Now as a second grader, she has wonderful friends, she is successful in dance and gymnastics, she is able to have playdates that don’t reliably devolve into tears, and on any given day a stranger in the grocery store wouldn’t know the challenges she faces—all things that would have seemed impossible four years ago. Without those early interventions, this trajectory would be heading in a very different direction. When parents are at a loss as to how to help their child, they need to know that they aren’t alone and that help can be found right here in Lamoille. Parenting is hard in the best of situations and if you are struggling, some days it just feels impossible. Support is just right down the street. If you or someone you know could use some help with a child who is struggling, don’t wait until it’s a crisis to ask for help.

If you or a child you know needs help, call Lamoille County Mental Health at (802) 888-5026 or visit www.lamoille.org.


Rebecca Copans has worked extensively in government affairs, public relations and communications. As a society, our greatest potential lies with our children. With this basic tenant firmly in mind, Rebecca worked most recently with the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children and now with Lamoille County Mental Health to secure a stronger foundation for all Vermont families. 

A graduate of the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College, Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in globalization. Her thesis concentration was the history and societal use of language and its effect on early cognitive development. She lives in Montpelier with her husband and three children.